Ms Brock, as the webmaster
of the Montana Amazon Tribute site, I am deeply honoured that
you have agreed to this interview.
Montana Amazon has
been flying under the radar in terms of buzz and hype over
the past 2-3 years, through preproduction, principal photography
and post production. Suddenly, it has won two major awards
at its first screenings at two important film festivals, including
one for Best Feature Film at the Big Apple Film Festival 2010.
Everyone has started to sit up and take notice of this little
film which seemed to have come out of nowhere, and everyone
is asking, who is this mysterious D.G. Brock, director of
Montana Amazon? Even IMDB does not have more than a couple
of lines about this director who seems to have pulled off
a brilliant piece of filmmaking. So, the question begs to
be asked . Who is D.G. Brock, and what do the initials
D.G. Brock :D.G. Brock is a writer
and filmmaker who lives in the California desert near Palm
Springs and Joshua Tree National Park. The initials are a
family secret, but close friends call me Deb.
Is there a reason why you have
chosen to go with your initials instead of your first name?
Director D.G. Brock :I like them and they are gender anonymous.
You list on your Facebook profile
that you have worked for "everyone Corman to Disney".
Could you elaborate on that?
Brock : I'm a screenwriter
as well as a director/producer. I've also done a lot of consulting
for financiers and distributors on problem films. Since I
wear a lot of hats work-wise, I've worked with many of the
companies in the film business.
How did you become involved in
Montana Amazon? Was the script offered to you to direct, or
was it a story you had to fight hard to get greenlit for filming?
What attracted you to a project like this?
Director D.G. Brock :This was a film made by close creative
friends - myself, Bruce Stubblefield (the producer). P.D.
Hughen (the original writer), -- who've known each other and
worked with each other for years. It's the only way a film
this unusual and unique could have been made.
P.D. had written the original screenplay and
then moved on to other projects, but Bruce was very taken
by the screenplay. It became a passion project of his to make
Montana Amazon, but the time had never been right until now.
Other screenwriters had written drafts of the original screenplay
but Bruce had never been satisfied that the screenplay was
ready to be shot. Then, a couple of years Bruce came back
to the project and got very serious about making it. You'll
have to ask him why - I think it was a natural part of the
life journey he is on, but that is his part of the story to
Bruce asked me to re-write the screenplay.
I was a fan of the story and had been following Bruce's adventures
with it for years. I re-wrote it very carefully - doing my
best to preserve the wonderful unique tone of the story and
characters from P.D. Hughen's original. After my first draft
of the screenplay, Bruce gave me a few notes and said "you
know you have to direct this, too."
I was very interested in directing it, but I
knew enough to be intimidated by the project - it's an unusual
story which mixes very dark deadpan comedy, screwball physical
comedy, poignant drama and ultimately a sense of the tragedy
of life. Plus, I knew Bruce would not be able to get together
a large budget for a film this "out of the box."
It would be a difficult shoot.
I was attracted to it because of the incredibly
unique tone (it was unlike any screenplay I had ever read
-- it was closer to a stage play, something from the Theater
of the Absurd) and yet it had many elements in it I could
identify with. I loved the fact that it was a road movie,
because I love to drive across and explore the American West.
The character, Grandma Ira, which Olympia Dukakis plays, reminds
me of my own grandmother. She was a tough, Texas pioneer woman
who came to Texas in a covered wagon from the Indian Territory
which is what they called Oklahoma before it became a state.
My grandmother never got past the 8th grade but later in life
when she wanted to leave her small town in Texas to visit
her sons who had been scattered across the world by war, she
worked odd jobs, saved her money, and traveled by herself
to California and England. She was a woman of the land - the
West, not highly educated, but brave and stubborn as hell.
She was very old and I was very young when she died, but she
really made an impression.
Also, I identified with Ira and her grandkids
as people who never fit in wherever they traveled. I believe
most creative people can identify with the meme of the "outsider."
P.D. Hughen is credited
as writer of the film, but did you have a say in developing
the script or the characters according to your own vision
of the film?
Director D.G. Brock :Yes, I did, although my ideas had to mesh
with Bruce's or I had to convince him I was right. I
came up with the beginning and the ending of the movie. The
original screenplay had a different ending.
The characters of Montana
Amazon have been called quirky, weird and strange, amongst
other things, and they are obviously not your average family.
Interestingly enough, you list on Facebook as one of your
favourite quotes, the following :"Normal
people are boring. You only need to be able to PRETEND to
be normal on occasion. Only if you are incapable of pretending,
are you officially insane." Did
this quote have anything to do with Montana Amazon?
Brock : Of course, it reflects
a view and experience of life which is part of what attracted
me to Montana Amazon. It is also a great comment on people
who work in the film industry.
Why did you cast Olympia Dukakis,
Alison Brie and Haley Joel Osment in their respective roles
Director D.G. Brock :I could easily see Olympia doing a great
job with Ira, and Haley with Womple. I had our very experienced
Casting Director, Ronnie Yeskel, send the script to their
managers. I was very lucky that they were attracted to the
characters and story, and that they said yes. I was asking
them to go on a big adventure with people they didn't know.
Alison actually came to the film by auditioning
for it. I think Ronnie Yeskel brought in every promising young
actress with good acting experience in Hollywood. I saw a
whole week's worth of Ella's, 8 or so a day, but as soon as
Alison started to audition, I knew she was the one.
What was it like working with
such incredible actors like these 3 veteran actors?
Director D.G. Brock :It was like driving a beautiful and power
sports car. A wonderful partnership and creative experience.
What do you feel that each brought
to the film with regards to their performances?
Director D.G. Brock :All three brought intense talents, experience,
and creative intelligence. Olympia brought her wonderful bravery
as an actress since not many leading lights of the stage and
screen would take a role where they only had 12 or so lines,
at least seven of which are just one word. Haley and Alison
are also serious brave actors. They are both very attractive
young adults, but they both pursued their characters whole
heartedly and spent most of film looking like hell - very
dirty and unkempt. Of course, Alison looks beautiful and sexy
even with her hair unwashed and wearing long cotton underwear.
These are three highly accomplished
actors who are literally veterans in their craft. Did you
find it easy to direct them, or did you have to adapt or modify
your usual way of directing as a result of their response
to your style of direction?
Director D.G. Brock :You have to learn what
works individually in terms of speaking to each actor. Olympia
was very direct in terms of telling me what she needed for
me to tell her. Haley is very good about asking intelligent
questions in regards to the character. Alison was wonderfully
creative when I would just tell her a simple action verb like
"teach him", "play with it - play - it's a
toy." We rehearsed for a week before we started shooting
in a rehearsal room with nothing but a table and some chairs,
so that was a good way to get to know how people worked.
Other actors were great about doing their homework,
too. Lew Temple who plays the wonderful character,Trevor,
showed up his first day on the set with several pages of back
story and character notes written out. He asked me some questions
he had and then went about bringing Trevor to life as a warm,
caring individual. I stand in awe of talented actors. I just
try to keep them all pointed in the same direction and give
them the means to stretch their talent and intelligence plus
emotional support for walking the high wire of performance.
Two of the characters, as played
by Olympia Dukakis and Haley Joel Osment, did not have a lot
of lines throughout the film. Was this a challenge for you
as director, and for them as actor, to get the story told
through the sheer physicality of their roles which they were
called to do, as opposed to a lot of dialogue?
Brock : Yes, it was difficult,
like directing a silent movie in many ways. The characters
only rarely say how they feel - most of the time you have
to see it in their expressions and body language. I was incredibly
blessed to have such skilled and courageous actors. Any less
of a cast would have been a disaster for the film.
Haley in particular mentioned that
shooting for Montana Amazon was incredibly fast paced, with
as many as 35-38 setups in a day. Was it a conscious decision
on your part to shoot this quickly, or were there other reasons
for this pace of shooting the film?
Director D.G. Brock :The budget was the reason. We only had
the financing for a very limited number of days of shooting
so we had to work hard and move quickly. However, in addition
to that, I think it is good for the actors to be able to move
from shot to shot and scene to scene quickly. They don't have
the long boring downtime between takes of a film that only
does 8 -10 setups a day to lose the edge of their characters.
Even if I had a bigger budget, I think I would still drive
the pace. When the cast and crew are "cooking" you
want to keep moving. I would just use a bigger budget to shoot
for more days with a bigger crew.
What were the most difficult challenges
that you faced as director, in getting Montana Amazon from
script to screen?
Director D.G. Brock :Everything was a challenge. It is incredibly
difficult to make a very unusual independent film with a low
budget. That said, I think the challenge that was the most
difficult for me was grinding away in the editing room to
get the cut right. It was like cutting a very delicate, but
possibly very wonderful silent movie.
It would not have been a success without
the extreme patience and editing talents of Peter Devaney
Flanagan, Ethan Holzman, and Bruce Stubblefield, who is a
former editor and has a very good eye for cutting.
Now that the film has been completed,
what is next on your plate as director?
Director D.G. Brock :I'm finishing writing an original comedy
script called "No Worries" which I intend to direct,
and going to a lot of meetings.
Katherine Bigelow made history
last year when she became the first and only woman to have
won an Academy Award for Best Director, for 2009's The Hurt
Locker. Do you feel that the barriers have finally broken
for women directors, and how, as a woman director, do you
feel about her win?
Director D.G. Brock :I felt great and that it was about time
for a woman director to win. However, I didn't feel that Katherine
won because she WAS a woman, she won because she is a very,
very good director. The barriers to women directors only break
down very slowly and it is not a continual process. According
to the Director's Guild statistics, fewer women directed movies
and television last year than in the years immediately preceding.
Historically, at the beginning
of filmmaking in the early 20th century, a great many directors
were women. This was before it was seen as an important job.
Men actually took the job over in the late 1920's, and started
excluding women. We're just making the proverbial showbiz